Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:
● Bush. Bush. Bush. It’s all Bush’s fault. Man up, Mr. President. You own it now. You’re not a facilitator leading a government seminar, nor a deal-detached observer, with no responsibility for the Louisiana purchase of Sen. Mary Landrieu or the Cornhusker Kickback to Sen. Ben Nelson. If it’s bad, he inherited. If good, he did it.
● President Obama listened to those on the left in drafting his State of the Union. More government. More spending. More hyper-partisanship. More cap-and-tax. More health care cram-down. No move to the center. Another year of deep national divisions loom.
● State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver of DeKalb County uses the recent troubles of former House Speaker Glenn Richardson as opportunity to push a bill to limit the value of gifts from lobbyists to $25, which is fine with me. But she also leaps to propose public financing of judicial races. That’s incumbent-protection. A challenger should be able to raise the sum the public wants to give to oust a bad judge. (Incidentally, lawyers shouldn’t be allowed to introduce legislation that benefits judges.)
● Whether it’s $25, as Oliver proposes, or $100, as state Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Atlanta) proposes, the General Assembly does need to pass meaningful ethics legislation. Legislators should make it illegal, too, for them or their staff to ask lobbyists to pick up tabs of any sum for any purpose. Money is only a part of the influence problem. Lobbyists who can deliver phone banks and single-issue voters are just as influential as those who pick up the tabs.
● Good news, of a sort. Cooking equipment has been fixed and Clayton inmates now get two hot meals per day. Had they gone straight, they could get three hot meals a day. Or five, as their appetites dictated.
● The alarm bell goes off when gubernatorial candidates start attacking the Georgia Department of Revenue and specifically Commissioner Bart Graham for collecting too little revenue. Graham’s a straight arrow who’s competent and aggressive in getting the state its due. Except for its voice-mail hell, it’s a sound, well-run department. Some politicians don’t like him because of the attention he’s brought to the tax deadbeats in their ranks.
● OK. On state transportation and tax policy: Fix congestion. Fund traffic-congestion relief. Spend first where the most people are freed from gridlock. Honest cost-benefit analysis should determine spending priority. Most state transportation planning consists of giving something to every interest group in hopes of building support for a new tax. That’s absolutely the wrong way to go. No tax should be approved if it’s not buying immediate gridlock relief.
● Miep Gies, who died this month at 100, was a secretary who was among those who protected the family of Anne Frank for two years, for which she was honored repeatedly. “I don’t want to be considered a hero,” she said in 1997. “Imagine, young people would grow up with the feeling that you have to be a hero to do your human duty. I am afraid nobody would ever help other people, because who is a hero? I was not. I was just an ordinary housewife and secretary.” Miep Gies risked her life repeatedly. The sentiment expressed beautifully describes those who are heroes. In a similar vein, British actor Richard Todd, who died at 90 in early December, was a genuine hero, too. He was among the first British paratroopers dropped at Normandy. “You don’t consciously set out to do something gallant,” he said. “You just do it because that is what you are there for.”
● Elected officials who don’t pay their taxes should be banned from office. Only exception: a legitimate tax dispute. Legislators who refuse to take furloughs required of state employees should be voted out of office. Refusal is arrogant.